Did you think if I interviewed Rick Berger that this column was going to be the regular ho-hum straight laced reporter news item? Well, you are about to get a look at the real Rick Berger.
Squinting at Rick from a certain angle he seems more like a young man than one who was born in the 1950s and full of wisdom. He certainly is spry and engaged in the community and listening to him talking about Atchison you quickly realize he loves this community and will do anything to keep it thriving. He lived on R Street until the patriarch of the family, A.C. Berger passed away. The family then moved in to the home that Rick and his wife now occupy on North Terrace.
All of you Jayhawk fans will be disappointed to know Rick is K-State grad with K-State pride through and through. His office looks like a museum with memorabilia of K-State everywhere.
I forgot to ask him what he named the huge sailfish that adorns the wall behind his desk. If we get any tremors from the earthquakes southeast Missouri is having and you feel the earth rumbling, please go check on Rick. It could be that mammoth fish flew off the wall and hit him while he was sitting at his desk admiring his K-State artifacts.
Enough teasing about K-State, I want to get serious now because he did go to Washburn and earn his law degree. K-State to Washburn? How does that measure up? OK, enough with K-State teasing, didn’t I say that before?
Did you know there is a 4 generation of Berger ownership of the company since it was started in 1908? Usually, companies fade away during the third generation or the company is sold off. However, Berger Co. is alive and thriving. Rick’s son has joined the company so we may see Rick begin to rest a little. (snicker) His wife of 41 years has to be a resilient woman to keep up with Rick’s energy level.
Now comes the semi-serious part of our interview. I asked Rick, as I do with all of my interviewees, what are three things about Atchison you would like to see changed?
Rick’s answers were well thought out and heartfelt and echoed some answers my other interviews shed light on.
Housing issues can be solved by getting the right people around the table with the mindset of “we can do it.” There are buildings in the area that can be turned into great housing like the old YMCA.
We have to work together to make the drug problems go away. The community needs to make it so that those who want to do drugs are not welcome in our community. Everyone needs to help because it won’t go away on its own.
We need people with a willingness to work. So many companies in our town could grow if they had the right workforce. Have never seen it this bad where there are just fewer and fewer qualified applicants.
I think that through these interviews we will begin to see like problems but what is even more important is hope people will sit up and take notice that these problems won’t go away without action.